Australia

NSW authorities call state COVID-19 outbreak a ‘national emergency’ as 136 new local cases recorded

New South Wales has recorded 136 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as health authorities advise the current outbreak is now a “national emergency”. 

Of the new cases recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, 53 were infectious in the community, while another 17 were in the community for part of their infectious period. 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday the upward trend of daily COVID-19 infections means the Greater Sydney lockdown is likely to be extended yet again.

“There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage. It is fairly apparent that we will not be close to zero next Friday,” she said. 

A review will be conducted next week for the plan into August and beyond. 

One new death has also been recorded involving an 89-year-old male.

Call to redirect more vaccine supply to western Sydney

Ms Berejiklian said the current situation is now being regarded as a “national emergency” and announced a further tightening of restrictions in the local government areas of Cumberland and Blacktown in Sydney’s west. 

Workers in those LGAs are now also not allowed to leave unless they are essential workers.

“[Cheif Health Officer Kerry] Chant and her team advised us that the situation that exists now in New South Wales, namely around south-western and now western Sydney suburbs, is regarded as a national emergency. For that purpose and for that reason the NSW government will be taking action in relation to that,” the premier said.

Ms Berejiklian said she supported Dr Chant’s declaration of a “national emergency” and appealed for Australia’s vaccine strategy to be refocused into Sydney.

“This is not just a challenge for New South Wales but a challenge for the nation,” she said.

“In order for us to have our citizens live freely and openly, as well as other states to ensure that their citizens live openly and freely, we need to have a national refocus.”

Ms Berejiklian also urged people over 40 to have the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding that she had taken it herself.

“Please know that we have offered AstraZeneca in our (state mass vaccination) hubs to over 40s … There is lots of AstraZeneca available, so if you’re over 40 there is no reason today why you should not be getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

The premier also said she has made requests to the federal government for more Pfizer vaccines to be redirected to regions of Sydney with the highest number of COVID-19 cases.

She said it was important to be getting younger people in southwestern Sydney and western Sydney vaccinated with the shot.

“We have to acknowledge there is a much younger population in those affected communities and we also need to refocus the national vaccination to getting at least the first jab of Pfizer in some of those demographic cohorts to prevent the spread.”

Dr Chant also said the country needed “to correct the mythology about AstraZeneca”.

“In the context of the Delta threat, I just cannot understand why people would not be taking the opportunity to go out and get AstraZeneca in droves.”

“Anyone under 40, consider it.”

Virus fragments detected in Byron Bay

Meanwhile NSW Health is urging residents with COVID-19 symptoms in Byron Bay on the far north coast of NSW to get tested, after virus fragments were found in wastewater in the region. 

The sewage treatment plant covers an area with 19,000 residents. 

“There are no known cases in this area, which is of great concern,” NSW Health said in a statement. 

No new cases have been reported in regional NSW where three local government areas are under a seven-day lockdown, scheduled to end on 28 July at 12:01am. 

Orange, Blayney and Cabonne are currently on day three of the lockdown, triggered by a visit last week from a trucker driver who tested postive for COVID-19. 

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